10 Companies You Likely Didn't Know Are Amazon Subsidiaries, Ranked by Acquisition Cost
Amazon is not just one of the most famous U.S. companies. It's also one of the world's most powerful and controversial businesses.
Most people associate Amazon with the online retail website we just can't quit (thanks, Prime Day). But the giant didn't get to an estimated $469.8 billion in revenue in 2021 just by fueling our addiction to mindless consumption. Part of its strategy has been to launch companies, as well as to acquire existing businesses, many of which you might not know are owned by the company.
These are the 10 most surprising Amazon subsidiaries, ranked by their acquisition cost.
Year acquired: 1998
Acquisition cost: $55 million
Bottom line: IMDb was one of Amazon's first acquisitions. The parent company was established in 1994. Only four years later, it bought the Internet Movie Database for $55 million.
Despite the company being an Amazon subsidiary for over 20 years, many people still don't know who owns it. The purchase was particularly interesting at a time when streaming had not been invented yet and Amazon Video was still eight years away from being founded.
*This list of Amazon subsidiaries is based on the SMB Compass "Everything Owned by Amazon" report.
Year acquired: 2013
Acquisition cost: $150 million
Bottom line: When Amazon bought Goodreads in 2013, many book lovers were outraged. One of the biggest criticisms the company faces is that it brings down independent businesses that simply can't compete with it. People were concerned that the acquisition would bring down local businesses.
Still, the Goodreads community continues to be strong despite the scandal, with people using the website as a way to mark reading wishlists and search for new novels. An Amazon link is prominently displayed next to books (though there are links to other sellers).
Since Jeff Bezos founded Amazon as an online retailer, this purchase makes sense.
Year acquired: 2008
Acquisition cost: $220 million
Bottom line: Before buying Goodreads, Amazon had already made sure to buy a competing bookseller, AbeBooks. The company specializes in rare or hard-to-find books, so it was much more niche than the initial Amazon company.
Still, enough people came to AbeBooks for their purchases that the giant sought to grab it, spending more than $200 million to make it an Amazon subsidiary. Again, many people were concerned that this would hurt the independent sellers who made a living with AbeBooks.
While there is no data on the financial ramifications of the purchase, the once independent company has continued to mostly operate as its own entity.
Year acquired: 2008
Acquisition cost: $300 million
Bottom line: Physical books were not enough for Amazon, so it launched its Amazon Kindle in 2007 to get into the e-books game. Then, the company went for audiobooks. A year after, Amazon bought Audible, the largest audiobook company in the U.S.
Anyone who's actually used Audible should be aware of its parent company. This is a rare acquisition company that has become fully integrated into the multinational, proudly displaying "an Amazon company" in its logo.
Year acquired: 2020
Acquisition cost: $300 million
Bottom line: Twelve years after jumping into the audiobook industry, Amazon continues to invest in audio media. In 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it acquired the successful podcast company, Wondery.
Perhaps this was Amazon's way to compete with Apple, whose podcast app is very popular around the world, though almost exclusively with iPhone users.
It's still early to see whether this investment will prove wise for Amazon, but given that the popularity of podcasts has not cooled down, the company is probably not too worried.
Year acquired: 2018
Acquisition cost: $839 million
Bottom line: Amazon doesn't just focus on the virtual world. The rise of home cameras convinced it to buy Ring in 2018. This was an appropriate purchase, given how many people use the camera to see who's been stealing their Prime delivery boxes.
This purchase also made Amazon the owner of the Neighbors app, which is a hyperlocal social network supposed to help people keep their neighborhoods safe. Whether it does that or creates tension has been up for debate.
4. Twitch Interactive
Year acquired: 2014
Acquisition cost: $970 million
Bottom line: Twitch is where the video game nerds of the world congregate. The streaming app is incredibly popular in the gaming world, which is probably why Amazon decided to dish out $970 million for it. Still, this is not even in the top three most expensive acquisitions by the company.
Given Twitch's very niche market, the company tends to perform strongly. And since gaming is here to stay, we'd deem this a wise investment. But whether it's ethical for a company to try to control every aspect of modern life is another question.
Year acquired: 2009
Acquisition cost: $1.2 billion
Bottom line: Zappos joined the Amazon family more than 10 years ago. But because of Amazon's controversial labor conditions and environmental impact and the fact that some people regard Jeff Bezos as a cold sociopath, many online buyers have sworn off Amazon.
If this is you, you'll want to make sure you aren't buying on Zappos either. Since 2009, the online clothing retailer has belonged to Bezos' firstborn company.
Zappos tends to sell clothes that are higher quality and more upscale than those you'll find on Amazon's website, which may mislead people into thinking it's a separate entity.
2. MGM Holdings
Year acquired: 2021
Acquisition cost: $8.45 billion
Bottom line: In the 1940s, the Supreme Court ruled against Paramount (and, by proxy, other major film studios) in a case that prohibited a company from both producing movies and owning the companies that exhibited them.
Streaming services weren't around then, so the law doesn't apply to companies like Netflix and Amazon Video. But this deal still feels like it should be illegal. In effect, Amazon distributes its own original films. It also now owns MGM Holdings, which holds MGM Studios, whose movies are available on Prime Video. (Coincidentally, both movie studios and Amazon have been in their fair share of labor abuse scandals.)
Amazon is betting so much on the streaming part of its business that it was willing to pay $8.45 billion to buy MGM.
1. Whole Foods
Year acquired: 2017
Acquisition cost: $13.7 billion
Bottom line: No acquisition has cost Amazon as much money as Whole Foods Market. One of the most successful supermarket brands in the United States, the company is known for its focus on organic products. Upscale clients are willing to pay a premium price for high-quality healthy food that is often not accessible to lower-income communities.
In 2017, Amazon paid a staggering $13.7 billion for Whole Foods. The investment proved lucrative only three years later when the coronavirus pandemic forced many people to start ordering groceries online. Amazon wasted no time setting up fresh produce delivery and pickup directly on its shopping website.
Even after most pandemic-era restrictions were dropped, people continue to order groceries on Amazon. Many pick them up at Whole Foods in a system that's undeniably convenient.
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